Wilson v. Cable News Network, Inc.

The trial court erred in granting a defendant news organization’s Anti-SLAPP motion in an employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, since the challenged conduct involved allegedly wrongful adverse employment actions rather than the production or content of defendant’s news programs.  In this 2-1 decision, the court follows Nam v. Regents of University of California (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 1176 in holding that the trial court erred in granting a defendant employer’s Anti-SLAPP motion in an employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.  Though the employee worked for a news organization, the conduct he complained about was not the production or content of its news programs but rather the wrongfully motivated adverse employment actions that it took against plaintiff.  The decision holds that Tuszynska v. Cunningham (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 257 and Hunter v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 1510 wrongly hold that the employer’s motivations are irrelevant in deciding whether its conduct is protected by the Anti-SLAPP statute, as wrongful motivation is what makes adverse employment actions illegal and tortious.  News organizations are not exempt from anti-discrimination laws, and the Anti-SLAPP statute was not intended to make anti-discrimination lawsuits more difficult to maintain.  Plaintiff’s defamation claim arising from an accusation one supervisor made to other CNN employees that one of plaintiff’s news stories was plagiarized also did not implicate any Anti-SLAPP-protected activity since plaintiff was not in the public eye and the plagiarism accusation did not raise any issue of public interest.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 1 (Lui, J.; Rothschild, P.J., dissenting); December 13, 2016; 2016 WL 7217201

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